PSY 220 CH.14
Altruism and Cooperation
• Altruism: Unselfish behaviour that benefits others without regard to consequences for the
• Humans are prone to feelings of compassion that lead us to behave in ways that benefit
others who are suffering, often at a cost to ourselves.
• Many forces inhibit altruistic action though, including tendencies for self-preservation
and fear of embarrassment.
Empathic Concern:ACase of PureAltruism
• Daniel Batson has made a persuasive case for a selfless, other-oriented state that
motivates altruistic behaviour. Proposes that any altruistic action, several motives come
into play. Two of which are selfish/egotistic (social rewards and personal distress) and a
third is more purely oriented towards unselfishly benefiting another person (empathic
• Social rewards: Benefits like praise, positive attention, tangible rewards, honours, and
gratitude that may be gained from helping others.
• Altruistic acts earn people esteem and respect, two things that are very desirable social
• Personal distress: A motive for helping those in distress that may arise from a need to
reduce our own distress.
• We react to other people’s distress with our own distress. So any altruistic act can be seen
as relieving our own distress.
• Empathic concern: Identifying with another person – feeling and understanding what
that person is experiencing – accompanied by the intention to help the person in need.
• When we encounter someone in pain, we not only experience our own feelings of
distress, but we imagine what the other person must be experiencing as well. This can
motivate us to help that person even more.
Empathy versus Personal Distress
• The experiments were set up so that there are few egotistical motives, but empathy is
high.Allowed for escaping distress by leaving experiment.
• Experiment: In a room with a confederate who would receive a shock when they got
something wrong. Participants had the opportunity to leave after 2 shocks, while the
confederate continued to finish the study. In another condition, the participants were told
that they had to stay for all 10 shocks.After first 2 trials, the confederate was getting pale,
asking for water, and relaying feelings of discomfort. Participants self-reported feelings
of distress and empathic concern during this phase. Participants divided into egotistical
motives and empathic motives groups. Participants then asked if they were willing to fill
in for the confederate. Those participants who mostly felt distress took fewer shocks for
the confederate than those who mostly felt empathic concern.
• Criticisms: Empathic concern was not manipulated, instead self-reports were used.
Perhaps high-empathy participants might just be more helpful in general. Second, the
experimenter knew how the participants act, so social rewards cannot be ruled out.
AnonymousAltruism • Study: Female participants were seated at separate cubicles and asked to engage in an
impression formation task. The communicator (confederate), supposedly a student named
JanetArnold, wrote two notes to the participant, expressing supposedly honest
information about herself. The task of the listener (participant) was to form as accurate an
impression of the communicator as possible. In the low-empathy condition, the
participant was to focus on the facts of the notes. In the high-empathy condition, the
participant was told to vividly imagine the notes. Then the experimenter gave the
participant a form that describes another long-term relationship study and asked whether
the participant would like to spend time with the other communicator, Janet. In the low-
social-evaluation condition, Janet’s notes were delivered in sealed envelopes and not read
or known by the experimenter. The participant’s survey was also to be sealed in an
envelope. In the high-social-evaluation condition, the experimenter and the participant
read Janet’s notes, and Janet and the experimenter were going to read the participant’s
survey. Participants who were encouraged to feel empathy for Janet, who reported feeling
lonely in her notes, volunteered to spend more time with her, even in the low-social-
evaluation condition, where volunteering was anonymous.
Physiological Indicators of Empathy
• Study: Showed a tape of a woman and her child who had gotten into an accident recently
to second graders, fifth graders, and college students. The children in the film missed
school while recovering. Participants’physiological indicators and facial expressions
were recorded during the film. Participants could help by volunteering to take the child
their homework during recess. Participants who felt sympathy had a certain facial
expression that differed from those who reported distress. Those who felt sympathy had
their heart rate go down; those who felt distressed had it go up.
Empathic Concern and Volunteerism
• Volunteerism: Non-monetary assistance an individual regularly provides to another
person or group with no expectation of compensation.
• Volunteerism has many motives including social rewards and a desire to reduce personal
• Recent studies suggest that volunteering is good for your health; it has a correlation to
increased longevity. Being the recipients of help had no increase in longevity.
• The likelihood of a person being altruistic was influenced by how often a person’s parents
acted or told stories of this manner.
Situational Determinants ofAltruism
• Kitty Genovese was stalked, sexually assaulted and killed within the presence of other
people. The police were only called 30 minutes after the incident occurred.
Darley and Batson’s Good Samaritan Study
• Subtle situational factors, such as whether you are on time or late, powerfully determine
whether you will help someone in need.
• Study:Asked Princeton undergrad students to give a talk. Some were told the topic was
on jobs that seminary students could get another was on the tale of the Good Samaritan.
They were given a map and told where to go. Some participants were told that the talk
was starting soon and they were going to be late if they didn’t leave now, some were told
that it was beginning soon and that they should leave soon, and the others were told that
they had plenty of time to get there.Along the path to the talk, they encountered a man who was slumped over and groaning in a passageway. He complained of having trouble
breathing. The topic had no effect on who would help or not. Students who were not in a
hurry were more than 6x as likely to stop and help. Only 10% of students in a high-hurry
• Bystander intervention: Giving assistance to someone in need on the part of those who
have witnessed an emergency. Bystander intervention is generally reduced as the number
of observers increases, because each person feels that someone else will probably help.
• Diffusion of responsibility: A reduction of the sense of urgency to help someone involved
in an emergency or dangerous situation under the assumption that other who are also
observing the situation will help.
• Study: Participants sat in separate rooms communicating through intercoms where one
person speaks at a time. The confederate mentioned that he occasionally has seizures.
Further in the talk, the confederate states that he is having a seizure and he needs help or
else he may die. In one condition, the participant was the only other person. In a second
condition, there was a participant, another person, and the confederate. In a third
condition, there were 4 other people, a participant, and the confederate. 85% in the first
condition left their cubicle to help, 62% in the second condition helped, and only 31% in
the final condition helped.
• Presence of strangers may reduce likelihood of helping, but presence of friends can
• People are more likely to help when the harm to the victim is clear and the need is
• The greater the costs associated with helping, the less likely people are to be altruistic.
• Study: Man staggers into the subway and collapses then looks up at the ceiling. In one
condition, a drop of blood flows down his head, in the other there is no blood. People
helped 65% of the time when there was blood, and 95% of the time when there was no
• Women tend to receive greater help then men.Also, women dressed more in more
conventional feminine attire tend to receive more help. Two reasons for this is that
women dressed in feminine attire fit the stereotype of a dependent, helpless woman, and
men can also use this opportunity as a foot-in-the-door for a possible romantic
• People are also more likely to help people who are similar to themselves.
Construal Processes andAltruism
• Many situations can be ambiguous, leading us to be unsure of whether help is needed or
Helping in Ambiguous Situations
• People are also more likely to help if they are present for the events leading up to t